RMGA's Seminar "All the Right Stuff" was held at the Mount Vernon Country Club (Golden).  Thanks, Norma Bovee, Education Chair, for overseeing the Seminar and preparing notes on the first two sessions.  "Thanks" Nancy Brueggeman, for taking/preparing notes on the remaining sessions.  Thanks to all "presenters" for their efforts preparing and presenting.   

"Top 3 Reasons to Hire Me":  Each person had 30 seconds to introduce themselves and give reasons why a DMC would want to hire them.   "So You Think You Can Guide". With chairs placed in motor coach configuration, simulating a tour, a slide show of ten Denver attractions at 2-minute intervals were projected on a screen at the front.  Three RMGA judges were seated to observe.   

Terryl Lofgren, the first contestant, was really good at giving a "bad" Denver tour.  After her tour, she was asked to leave the room.  Coach passengers (pax) and the judges were asked to critique her tour. On Terryl's return, judges reviewed what she did:    

The Pros were:    

  • She arrived on time and counted pax (several times!)                 
  • She was entertaining, enthusiastic, safety conscious, and welcoming                   
  • She kept to schedule, was audible and knew the names of all locations.   


Improvement Suggestions:                            

  • Prepare in advance, Dress appropriately and introduce herself and the Driver                           
  • Position self to be seen and heard with accurate information, time commentary with location arrival                        
  • Ask for questions, allow time for answers                           
  • Talk with Driver in private if issues arise.                         
  • Refrain from offering political opinions, from using notes and from asking for tips.    

She was NOT selected as Guide, she "boo-hoo...d."  

Ed Weising, 2nd contestant, gave the same City Tour.  At its conclusion, he was asked to leave so pax and judges could critique the tour.         

The Pros were:  

  • Enthusiastic body language, engaged passengers with questions.                             
  • Information focused, related enough to spark interest in other tours.    

Great tour--chosen by the judges to be "So You Think You Can Guide" winner.         

A "State of the Industry" Panel covered 4 areas of tourism industry:   General overview, given by Sid Wilson of A Private Guide.  Sid spoke about his business which provides group tours/event transportation services--he's on VISIT DENVER Board, and other tourism boards.   

  • Tourism industry brings 13 million visitors/year to Denver; City has the ability to market 2 vacations in one.  Dynamic  City:  affordable, urban, great cuisine, multi-cultural market, and the Gateway to the Rocky Mountain Region.   
  • A new venue:  Clyfford Still Museum!    
  • Snow Sports will have new Hall of Fame/Museum in McNichols Building at North end of Civic Center Park.  Second floor to have major event space:  9,000+ sq. ft.  Third floor: 600+ objects:  art, artifacts and pioneers of snow/skiing.  To include gift shop. Denver is "Ground Zero" for winter sports globally!   
  • Denver's "Beerfest", one of largest in world; Mile High Holidays--hotel packages including rooms, meals, attractions;   
  • Restaurant Week, because of Denver surveys, showed Denver cuisine less than  exciting.  The Restaurant Week was extended to two weeks and the local options have significantly upgraded the quality of restaurants in Denver.   
  • Hotels:  Denver has 2 five-star hotels--Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons.  Westin planning 8,000+ rooms/DIA--35,000+ rooms in region        

Areas where Sid's company can work better w/ RMGA:  Coordinate coach and  passenger details if you get referral for a tour.  Sid works with IGA and ITMI to hire tour guides/managers.  Works with Kent Rice, the new Director, Arts and      Venues, City & County of Denver, who has overseen merger of division with Denver Office/Cultural Affairs to being part of Office/Economic Development             

Docent Mary Thompson addressed "Volunteering"--Way to learn City, sharpen skills--friendly demeanor/willingness to help. In Westward expansion, US depended on land, wealth, adventure.  Many Denver docents, storytellers giving story amidst background of history.    

  • Hundreds of ways to volunteer.  W/62.8 million volunteers in USA in 2010, provided 8.1+ billion volunteer hours, value: $173 billion.   
  • Colorado volunteer rate:  33.3% in Colorado, yet we rank 17th/nation.  In 2008, 45,000 more volunteers in Colorado than 2007.  Last year, there were 1.2 million volunteer hours given: value of $3.5 billion.  
  • Most "Not for Profits" (NFP) have minimum time requirements for volunteers; some considered staff.  Volunteers important part of venue's entire professional team.   The Molly Brown House Museum attracts historians.   
  •  Colorado Springs has over 200 NFP organizations.  (Mary had more volunteer  information; call her if you want a copy.)  

Jim Watson of VISIT DENVER (VC) represented the major tourism organizations promoting Denver; strong convention services, promotes self worldwide.  Visitor Centers located at 16th & California St., and 5th level/DIA.  Include gift shops, Ticketmaster connection, Colorado & Front Range attractions, relocation guides.  They see a lot of visitors during winter months from Southern Hemisphere.  200 - 800 people visit Center daily; with requests for same-day tours,  Need step-on guides--an area where coordination w/RMGA would be helpful.  25% inquiries are new "relocates"   VC has listing of bus routes, BUT you must go to Center to pick on up information. 

The Visitor Center has connection information to:  Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Boulder, mountains;  Civic Center Park to Cherry Creek Mall, 17th Street to City Park, Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo; downtown Golden.    

Natallia Fodemski has own business (Colorado Personal Tour Guide) at Colorado Springs--is group step-on guide, private tour guide.  Has commercial car insurance for private tours, vehicle registered with State.  She works with business travelers, families, couples, individuals.  Seeks clients with two websites, Facebook, Twitter; member of many Colorado Springs organizations.  Offers packaged tours: 1/2 day, full day, & week-ends.  Uses contract people when needed; researching commercial insurance for contractors and general liability insurance coverage.  She is fluent in several languages, currently seeking Spanish-speaking guide.  She suggested we NOT take visitors to top of Pikes Peak on first day in Colorado.      

Lunch time was accompanied by the game "Denver Jeopardy"; prizes:  chocolates and mini-candy bars!  Networking and conversation!     

Best Practices Roundtable Discussions on Pricing, Affiliations, Tips and Insurance.  Larry Ralston addressed Pricing.  Suggested that guides price their tours at going rate--don't undercut--think about "Retail price".  DMCs want the Best, willing to pay going rate.   

  • Look to repeat business via the going rate, live up to corporate expectations.    
  • Over the Road Tour Managers generally paid by day/tour package.  Ask corporate policy and what brochures suggest for tipping.     

Barbara Foos referred to RMGA Affiliations.  RMGA is a member of several and needs to be part of the professional tourism community.  RMGA receives information keeping membership abreast of current trends.  RMGA belongs to:   

  • Tour Colorado, markets to tour group operators:  ABA (Bus), NTA (Tours), and SYTA (Student and Youth Travel Association).  Tour Colorado markets tour guides.      
  •  Visit Denver serves Metro area; RMGA listed in Visitors Guide, on their website.   
  • National Federation/Tourist Guides Association (NFTGA-USA) includes 20 other groups such as Washington, DC (400 members), NYC (200+ members), Las Vegas.  NFTGA Conferences: meet other guides.  The NFTGA 2012 Convention will be     in San Francisco and will feature insurance info.  
  • NFTGA-USA & RMGA members: WFTGA (World Federation/Tourist Guide Associations).  WFTGA holds international conferences.   

Barbara reminded us: You should delete any unknown online requests they could be "spam".  Generally, DMC looks for destination first, then tour guide. 

She suggested asking ourselves:  Why Am I In The Tour Industry?  As member, you need to attend other activities offered to network business.  Also: when responding to DMC, use RMGA connection.  Brevity required; note your profile on RMGA website--limited to 150 words.      

Tipping is often a problem.  Norma Bovee told us that tipping has been around since 16th Century--then to Insure Promptness!  Tip is a cultural term, i.e., tip in Japan, considered an insult.  In USA, tipping a compensation tool. USA rules even uncertain.    

How do we clarify this as Professionals?  Sid's proposals:  use terminology saying if service warrants, please provide gratuity.  DMC generally builds tips into fee.  Certain groups do not tip.  Sometimes envelopes provided for tour manager/guide and coach driver on OTR tour.  DMCs put policy in general information sent each passenger.  Most Americans tip both coach driver and guide.  What about special events such as a corporate meeting?  Both may be tipped.  Tips become critical if event after hours or in evening.   

If the situation is still unclear?  ASK!   

What about insurance?  OTR Tour Manager Mary Bendelow addressed it this way:   

  • If W-2 employee, employer deducts insurance from paycheck; if independent  contractor, you pay for it!   
  • Professional Liability Insurance generally means "did you take client somewhere where  they were in danger?"  Umbrella policy may not protect you if money received for activity.  NFTGA policy covers $1 million liability for $80/year which covers you anywhere in USA.    
  • If driving van (14 passengers or more), need CDL, physical/medical license.  Additional liability insurance may cost individual $400 or so above your personal insurance.    

Gaye Buzbee-Jacobs noted she uses waivers/emergency forms--may not hold up in court but does give her legal due diligence.  If working with a concierge, Concierges do due diligence (name/address/emergency contact, photo) covering event. 
Several members shared their insights into Guiding whether step-on, docent, tour manager, or in related area.  Jody Calton's first try at being guide is a State Capitol docent.  She studied brochure, took test, shadowed tours, then on her own.  Her practices include:   

  • Wanting guests to walk away from Capitol having good feeling about Denver and Colorado.   
  • Knowing type tour:  several available: 45-min. historical tours, 30-min. dome tours, student tours.  Student tours--3 groups:  lunch group, dome-tour group, historical tour group.   
  • Timing is very important!  Student tours must adhere to schedules.  Group tours depend on size--large groups tend to move slowly.  Other differences:  Senior Center groups, Emily Griffith School, small special outings.  They often know more than expected.   Usually asks group about time frame before beginning tour--adjusts her talk to that.   
  • Asking them questions; sometimes takes to West side of Capitol, shows them cannons, "mile high" marker, points out other interests! 

One area Larry Ralston works as a Step-On Guide.  He often has people who want quick 1/2 day City tour, difficult to do on short notice.  RMGA & Denver need to find way to do immediately 1/2 day and full day tours.  Noted 40,000-60,000 walk thru Capitol each month.  Convention group tours mostly pre-packaged.  Often on-board tour manager is official contact for company--they are in charge.    

  • Group tours often here only 1 - 2 nights.  Tour time may be flexible; i.e., changing departure time due to previous late night arrival.  Talk to tour manager the day before, if possible, to know what they want guide to do.   
  • Talk to their "minder" before hand, if possible, for adaptability but try to get as many details as possible, adjust to their requests.    
  • Prime information to give includes 'photo ops', location of restroom stops.  (In Denver, public restrooms available at: Union Station--very clean), at Capitol, Red Rocks, and REI at Confluence Park (north end/Aquarium lot on Water Street, off 15th & Platte Streets.   
  • On a walking tour, Pavilions on 16th St. Mall:  2nd level restrooms.  Try to combine this type of stop with other points of interest.   

When DMC asks your advice, they're seeing you as professional.  This is "sales work" for you, DMC & VISIT DENVER.  It's another reason to call you again.  In  general, City Tours will cost DMCs for four hours, even though request for less hours.     

Driver/Guide Tom Jensen, works for Colorado Sightseer, Inc.  He drives minivan (4-6 passenger) or short coach for up to 15 passenger.  With 15 or fewer passengers, he doesn't need a CDL license.  Works 1/2, full-day tours: City/Foothills/Pikes Peak/Mt. Evans/Loveland Pass.  He's a 1099 and independent contractor employee.   Who is your most difficult passenger?  Those who don't ask questions!   

  • Before each tour, Tom prepares coach for departure; i.e., makes sure it's clean, full of gas, snacks and water for passengers.  Picks up passengers at individual hotels downtown.  Outside of coach, he welcomes to Colorado & Denver, inside vehicle gives rules of road, reviews itinerary, where photo ops, restrooms, breaks located.  Tom's tour flexibility:  can market company, drop-off passenger, collect payment (already processed).  Can ask for tips subtly, thank passenger,  & "suggests" return to company and area.     
  •  On Tom's return, he cleans coach, restocks w/ snacks, water, and gas if needed.   
  •  Many passengers are internationals, especially India, here for international  conventions.  He deals with hotel concierges, VISIT DENVER.  His "cheat sheet" includes conversions feet to meters, Fahrenheit to Centigrade.  He speaks more slowly for non-English speaking, watches "slang" in presentations.  Explains things unique to area, such as word "tumbleweed".          
  • Feels more work as driver/guide in full-day (8 hr.) tour that might actually take 10-12 Hours because of prep time before and after.  Biggest challenge: drive & talk at same time.  No van microphone, only hand-held in small coach.  Has NFTGA insurance thru RMGA.        

Mary Bendelow, Over The Road (OTR), Tour Director/Guide, her trips are often 18 days: for commentary on tours.  Need to learn to pace self so you won't run out of things to tell; don't exhaust self.  Passengers are "family" for the next 18 days; you need to get their stories: why they're on this tour.  Very important to confirm and reconfirm details, OR reconfirm by e-mail.  Learn group dynamics: why there?  Some reasons include:  don't want to be home, no longer travel internationally.  Tour manager needs to talk with each passenger on the trip.  Their indecision; want leader to solve their problems.  They want choices made for excursions,  some  slow  walkers,  some  fast  walkers,  some just "sitters".  Tour manager needs to monitor who talks to whom, sits alone. Mary uses name tags; some Tour Director Guides do not.  No two tours are the same, even if visiting the same places.     

Mary's analogy:  tour is like bicycle--back wheel is the mechanics and front wheel fun stuff they remember.  Mary uses seating rotation chart; tells passengers that seating is non-negotiable as "tour operator requires" seating changes, rotation.  This allows the group to meet someone new across aisle to talk with.  Generally, company policy has name tags;   does require seat rotation.   Some companies, smaller groups on large coach, sit where they like.     

Barbara Johnson is an Over The Road (OTR) Tour Manager.  Attended IGA; does mostly student tours.  She has worked for Smithsonian Student Tours.  Currently Barbara works for Cosmos (Globus) which caters: mostly older people from UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Israel.  Uses index card system: learn names/home town of passengers, to remember them.  Check list helpful: to remember names, etc.  Gives each passenger a packet with information form to fill out: listing their name, address, physical constraints (can't do stairs, etc.).  Information on sheet helps passenger is not share.  Barbara receives a 52 page technical outline for trip.  Can rearrange the itinerary some if weather change; tour managers in same area share information on road conditions, etc.  Barbara uses blogs; stressed not to get behind on paper work.  Coach driver best friend on tour but the Tour Manager is still in charge!  Barbara works fall tours consisting of 10-day tours thru eight New England states--primarily fall foliage tours.  Many other activities: include whale watching, ferry boat rides, clambakes, lobstering, lighthouse tours.  Cosmos website already has 2012 itineraries listed.  Above all, don't lose your sense of humor!     

The seminar ended around 3:45--right on time!!      

Thank you Norma Bovee, Education Chair, and Nancy Brueggeman.